If you were going to set up a restaurant business, choosing a gorgeous old warehouse with glorious views of the quay in the quaint Norfolk town of Kings Lynn is as good a place to do it as any – providing the customers made a beeline for this perfect location. In fact, they combined it with an upstairs exhibition space. I’ve quoted below the history of the warehouse taken from Marriott’s Warehouse website, but the bit I want to test out here is this, also from the website:
“At Marriott’s Warehouse Cafe and Restaurant we are passionate about good fresh local food, the wonderful waterfront and heritage of King’s Lynn as well as good company and great service. Open from 10am every day, we’re the perfect place for meals, snacks and drinks, with a strong emphasis on the wealth and variety of local meat, fish and seasonal produce.”
For a foodie this is music to my ears, though it has to be said such places do on occasion have a habit of flattering to deceive. Why would this be? My guess is that sometimes after the initial buzz staff leave, standards drop and complacency sets in – and for one or two, the prime local ingredients are subtly replaced with prepackaged goods from wholesalers. It demands a tough boss to keep the flag flying for local food; my mission is to wave that flag when I find those who do it well.
Initial signs were good, in that they had a record of my booking – though in a largely vacant dining room we were offered a small table for two crammed in by a window. My fault for not demanding more space but mean on the part of the servers and evidence of tables pushed uncomfortably close to squeeze in the maximum possible.
On this occasion it was a light lunch required, so this review will bypass the more exotic items found on Marriott’s website and specials board (see here), which reads like a pub menu more than anything, at broadly similar prices too. In fact there is a cafe menu too, a subset of the lighter items from the carte.
In true brasserie tradition, they cater for everything from breakfast, through light snacks, lunches and dinners. The next table afforded us a grandstand view of two ladies eating a Full English, which looked acceptable without being anything special. I wish more restaurants would make an effort to cook home-made baked beans – which are decidedly superior to the over sweetened canned variety – and an end box standard hash browns, straight from freezer to frier, when the real deal are easy to make and infinitely superior. No doubt the bacon, sausage, egg and sourdough were up to the mark, judging by their being put away in good time.
For ourselves, we chose coffees (acceptably strong and with reasonable depth of flavour, certainly not true of all establishments), one of several sharing platters and a bowl of sweet potato chips, served unconventionally with a minted yogurt dip but decidedly better than some I’ve tried in recent years. The platter comprised the following:
SMOKED MEAT AND CHEESE PLATTER for 2 £16.50: Duck, smoked sausage, loin of pork, gerkhins, bread, smoked cheese, marinated red peppers, Cajun mayo and salad
OK, so they can’t spell “gherkins” but if I excluded every place without spelling mistakes on the menu there would probably not be many left. The meats truly packed a punch and were unquestionably the best of local artisanal produce – home cured and smoked, succulent, flavoursome, sweet and with texture combining mildly chewy with sensual meatiness.
The smoked cheese was not at all bad either, though I could have done with a bit more of the toasted sourdough and salad garnish as an antidote to the carnivorous board. As for the Cajun mayo, it also packed a punch and reminded me more of harissa than mayo. Maybe some gentler condiments might also be offered?
Meanwhile, service had been thus far sleek and relatively efficient. We were asked twice by two different members of the waiting team if there was anything else we wanted, with more coffee the only response.
However, things changed when I asked for the bill. All of a sudden, staff were nowhere to be seen, let alone with the customary wallet or card machine. In desperation I asked again, and again, and again. Yep – it took no fewer than four requests before somebody brought us the bill. Surely this can’t mean they were reluctant to let us pay, though maybe the logic goes that we should be kept waiting in case we decide to order desserts? Either way, it detracted from the impact and should have been unnecessary given a restaurant never more than half full, but I shall gracefully assume it was a blip and will not be repeated.
That notwithstanding, I will be visiting MW again during my forthcoming working stay in Kings Lynn, as much to try the evening menu to check out more local produce. Bring it on!
“Marriott’s Warehouse is thought to have been built in its present form by local merchant Thomas Clayborne in around 1580 as a warehouse for corn, salt and wine, although the site was a riverside quay by 1300 and some of the oldest timbers in the building date back to this time. King’s Lynn was an important trading port in the medieval Hanseatic League, which provided a major link between merchants and towns around the North Sea and the Baltic for several centuries. King’s Lynn still has a number of historic buildings connected with that trade. Marriott’s Warehouse was restored in the late 1990s and is a Grade II* listed building.”